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American Colleges and Universities Build Momentum on the Road to Paris

More than 200 American colleges and universities across the country committed to standing behind a strong international climate agreement.

Universities and college campuses across the country are powerful hubs of social action, and there is no doubt that students and young people across the country need to play a key role when it comes to taking action to address climate change. With the international climate negotiations in Paris quickly approaching next month, it is critical that our nation’s youth take action to protect our planet and voice their support for a strong international climate agreement.

Yesterday, we announced that 218 colleges and universities (including my alma mater Brown!), signed the American Campuses Act on Climate Pledge committing to support strong action on climate change by world leaders at the Conference on Climate Change in Paris next month.

Students, administrators, academic leaders and other members of campus communities across the country represent a powerful voice in the global conversation on climate and we know they can lead the charge on climate action at home. The schools standing up for climate action by signing the pledge represent a diverse group of institutions representing more than 3 million students across 41 states, including technical schools, community colleges, historically black colleges and universities, religious institutions, women’s colleges, all schools in the Ivy League, and a variety of public and private universities.

To kick off the day of action, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy joined the “Chief Curiosity Correspondent” of The Field Museum in Chicago, and host of the educational YouTube channel The Brain Scoop Emilie Graslie to talk climate action and the steps that campuses are taking across the country. Students at over 140 campuses held watch parties to join the conversation and voice support for a strong international agreement to address climate change.

In addition to signing the pledge to support a strong global climate agreement, colleges and universities across the country are taking big steps to enhance environmental educational opportunities, build campus sustainability and resilience to a changing climate, set ambitious goals for cutting greenhouse gas emissions and incorporate climate action into long term planning. More than 100 of the institutions signing today’s pledge have also set goals of achieving carbon neutrality within the next few decades.

While the steps that leaders in higher education are taking are crucial, students and young people across the country are poised to truly lead the way on climate action. In order to engage and mobilize student leaders across the country, today Defend our Future launched a new climate change campus campaign to empower more than 1 million young Americans to take decisive action on climate change. Companies are also taking action, like the bikeshare company Cyclehop, based in Santa Monica, California, which has committed to expanding access to smart-bikes on college campuses across the country.

We are already seeing the devastating impacts of climate change around the world. President Obama is committed to working across sectors to address this challenge head-on and ensure a successful outcome to global climate negotiations. More than 150 countries representing around 90% of all global emissions have already offered climate pledges, and just last month 81 companies signed the American Businesses Act on Climate Pledge to demonstrate their commitment to climate action.

It is inspiring to see young people across the country and institutions on the forefront of research, social change and innovation join the charge for climate action. Today’s actions will continue to build momentum and pave the way for way for strong international action to protect our planet for future generations.